Satisfaction Comes from a Job Done Well
by Kim Roe
The dark side of being a horse trainer is your heart gets broken, a lot. People bring you their horses — some are crazy, some A-students, some super-athletes, and some lap dogs. You build their confidence and form a bond, and turn them into solid citizens. They trust you and then they go away, often forever. Each and every time it happens, your heart is broken.
Many times, I’ve watched through a blur of tears as the backside of a horse trailer rolls down my driveway.
And then there’s the people. Because riding is a hobby for most equestrians, the instructor can easily become a friend. Again, trust is built, hand-holding happens, and plenty of you can do this cheerleading goes on. There are tears and hugs and nights spent awake trying to figure out how to help someone with her horse. Sometimes the trainer is invited for dinner, a party, even weddings, and the line between client and friend easily becomes blurred. Then one day your student moves on, never to be heard from again. There goes your heart again.
I’ll admit I’ve had trouble with this. I bond strongly with both man and beast, and well, I miss them when they’re gone. It’s a shortcoming as a trainer. To do this well one must have thick skin.
Recently, I discussed this dilemma with a woman I take lessons from. She gave me the most wonderful gift of advice. “Kim,” she said, “You have to think of them like a child you raised. You’ve done what you can for them and now they need to move on to continue their journey. Sure, it hurts, but it’s inevitable for their sake. You’d be a pretty lousy mom if your child never left home.” This nugget of insight really helped. If I do my job well, like a loving parent, both students and horses will inevitably move on.
Horses live in the moment, and now I’m trying to hone that skill, enjoying each moment with a horse or rider; I’ll do my best to ignore the future. Like a mother with her child, I know the clock is ticking down to the day my loved one leaves home, but the job is well worth the parting.
Being in the horse business is a beautiful blessing. It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride that is pure gift. I’m grateful to all my students and all the horses — present, past, and future. I will continue to give all I can to each of them, tender heart and all.
Enjoy this month’s issue and, as always, feel free to contact me at [email protected]
Kim Roe grew up riding on the family ranch and competed in Western rail classes, trail horse, reining, working cow, and hunter/jumper. She trained her first horse for money at 12 years old, starting a pony for a neighbor.
Kim has been a professional dressage instructor in Washington state for over 30 years, training hundreds of horses and students through the levels. In recent years Kim has become involved in Working Equitation and is a small ‘r’ Working Equitation judge with WE United.
Kim is the editor of the Northwest Horse Source Magazine, and also a writer, photographer, and poet. She owns and manages Blue Gate Farm in Deming, Washington where she continues to be passionate about helping horses and riders in many disciplines.